Research · Editorial

OU’s augmented reality learning ecosystem project wins EU standards+innovation award

Students using mixed reality technology in a health care setting

The ARETE project received the CEN/CENELEC Standards+Innovation Award 2022 for Best Research Project. Congratulations to IET and the connected consortium of international partners.

ARETE, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation framework program, develops a Europe-wide competitive ecosystem that supports the dissemination of Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality content in education.

ARETE, short for ‘Augmented reality interactive educational ecosystem’, received the Standards + Innovation award in October 2022 at CEN-Cenelec ceremony, an event that acknowledges the important contribution of research and innovation to standardisation.

The Open University are partners on the project, alongsideUniversity College Dublin, the University of Leicester, Wordsworth Learning Ltd and CleverBooks. The OU’s Institute of Educational Technology (IET) are leading the standards and technology development within the project with Prof Fridolin Wild elected as standards manager of the project. IET leads the technical development of the project, building a new interactive augmented reality toolkit that empowers users to engage with learning in Augmented Reality.

Commenting on the role of IET on the project, Fridolin Wild, Professor at IET, says:

“We are working on ‘the’ standards for Augmented Reality in learning and performance augmentation, to ensure our research has widespread impact in practice. With our work, we seek to build formal standards for XR learning, teaching, and training activities, but also provide policy and regulatory guidance such as for XR ethics, safety, or user experience.”

Through the engagement of the project, ARETE aims to promote awareness of innovative AR use cases in education, their value, and their relevance for industry key markets.

Receiving the award at the ceremony, project coordinator Prof Eleni Mangina, professor at University College Dublin, discussed how the ARETE project is seeking to facilitate uptake of interactive Augmented Reality technology, methods, and tools.

Prof Mangina shared how the ARETE project has progressed augmented reality content in educational contexts, commenting:

“We started with the main objective to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of an augmented reality authoring toolkit, not just for the students but also for the teachers. We wanted to apply the human-centred interaction design for the ARETE ecosystem, and to pilot and evaluate the effectiveness of the technologies within the educational systems around Europe.”

Prof Mangina commented on the results which have been measured, with impact measured through the utilisation of standardised tests in education, market intelligence to ascertain the technology-readiness level of the ARETE toolkit, and a competitive readiness analysis of how the technology subject level is in primary schools in Europe.

Adding further, Prof Elena Mangina stated:

“We are leaving a global Augmented Reality footprint through the standards we are creating. We are not applying these standards only in the European setting. With the appearance of the Metaverse, the standards don’t have a geographical border, they are valid globally. Everybody learns, any time anywhere.”

Under the leadership of Prof Wild (chair) and Prof Mangina (co-chair), and supported by secretary Fernando Utrilla Ortegra from the Spanish national body for standardisation, UNE, ARETE has recently kicked off a new workshop in CEN-Cenelec on September 9, 2022, focused on ‘XR for learning and performance augmentation’. The aim of the workshop is to develop a comprehensive set of specifications relevant for the creation, delivery, and deployment of XR learning experiences.

Discussing the intended outcome for the workshop, Prof Fridolin Wild said:

“Standardization is one of the most powerful avenues within technology and educational infrastructures, influencing the competitiveness and strategic value of companies within the sector.”

“As standards are scarce and incomplete across the XR landscape, this workshop seeks to take lead with a global mindset, to implement the research and understanding from ARETE into action with a new unilateral standard for eXtended reality education.”